Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe supports the freedom to marry

Earlier this week, Chris Kluwe, a punter for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings, began working with Minnesotans for Equality, an organization working to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples in Minnesota. He has been speaking out against the anti-gay amendment, recording radio advertisements about why Minnesotans should vote NO on limiting the freedom to marry in their state. Listen to one of the radio ads below.

He spoke with Outsports about why he supports marriage. He said:

 I've always believed that people are inherently the same and should have the same rights and equal protection under the law. It really doesn't matter what you do with who or whom as long as you're not infringing on someone else's rights. Everyone should be free to live their own life however it makes them happy. ... One of the things my parents brought me up with is that you should have equality for everyone. I would like to think I have a pretty strong sense of justice and right and wrong. [The proposed marriage amendment] is just blatant discrimination and that's not right, that's wrong. 

Kluwe himself is married with two children, and he said much of his support for the freedom to marry stems from his commitment to his own family. He told Outsports:

One of the best things parents can teach their children is to have the courage to go out and find your own answers in life. While we can give you a framework, it's up to you to live your own life. ... I had some input in writing [one of the radio ads[ and I wanted to make sure it was something that would resonate with people. I don't think a lot of people realize that family is family. It doesn't matter who you are; the people you grow up with, that's your family. If you find out your kid is gay, are you going to love him any less? Because if you do, then you're probably not doing parenting for the right reasons.

The football player's advocacy is already noteworthy because of his status as a professional athlete. But his decision to speak out on behalf of the freedom to marry could make an even greater, immediate impact because of his ties to Minnesota. Although he played college football for UCLA in California and hails originally from Philadelphia, Kluwe has played for the Minnesota Vikings since 2005. His vocal support could influence public opinion in the state, which is facing a ballot initiative in November that proposes a constitutional amendment to ban the freedom to marry. Every ounce of visibile support matters, and when the words of affirmation about why marriage matters are coming from a local professional football player, voters who may have faced little positive exposure to the freedom to marry may take the time to reconsider their stance.

Kluwe hopes that his support can chip away at the number of Minnesotans who want to support the anti-gay amendment to limit the freedom to marry. "We did three [radio ads] and hopefully they'll release the last two in a week or so," he told Outsports, adding, "Whatever else they want me to do, I'm more than happy to speak up about it." 

Kluwe's support is also significant outside of Minnesota because it has prompted discussion about the freedom to marry in the world of sports, which has traditionally shied away from social issues - especially discussion about the gay and lesbian community. Few football players have announced their support for the freedom to marry - in recent years, just a handful, including former NY Giant Michael Strahan, Cowboys hall-of-famer Michael Irvin, Carolina Panthers linebacker Nic Harris, Houston Texan linebacker Connor Barwin, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, and Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Donte Stallworth, have gone public with their support.

For whatever reason, the world of sports has remained relatively quiet on the subject of the freedom to marry. That's why every announcement like this one from Kluwe - especially coupled with his active advocacy - is significant and should be celebrated.